This past Friday New Orleans Saints fans finally got the opportunity to see their team in action against the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time since last year’s disappointing season. Excitement was in abundance and expectations were high as head coach Sean Payton made his return following a one year suspension for his role in the Bounty Gate scandal.
The Saints would eventually go on to win their preseason opener at home, but just how well did the offense play behind the play of Drew Brees and Payton’s coaching?
Well, they did alright, I guess.
Brees played into the second quarter and went 7-10 for 65 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Not too bad after some scuttlebutt in training camp that he looked rusty at times. Let’s keep in mind that this was only the first of four preseason games, so there’s plenty of time for it all to come back and fall into place.
Much of the attention on the offensive side of the ball has been focused on the wide receivers. Marques Colston and Lance Moore will be the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers barring any serious injuries, but there has been a real battle in training camp for that coveted No. 3 receiver spot. Joe Morgan had an excellent chance to secure that spot heading into training camp, but a season-ending ACL injury took him out of the running.
Following Morgan’s injury New Orleans brought in Steve Breaston on a one-year deal to compete for that open spot. I think it’s likely he will ultimately get the nod for that position, but don’t forget about Nick Toon who caught four passes for 66 yards or Kenny Stills who showcased his speed and ability to separate from defenders.
While I’d like to see the No. 3 receiver position decided soon, between Colston, Moore and tight end Jimmy Graham, I believe they’ll be fine for the most part.
Of more concern at this point, however, must be the Saints’ running game. New Orleans rushed for 119 yards on 36 carries. Not terrible, but not great either. Darren Sproles also lost a fumble.
New Orleans will need to solidify its running game to get back to their winning ways. Specifically, expectations are high for former first-round pick Mark Ingram who has yet to have a solid, breakout year. Payton expressed earlier in training camp that he wants to return to a more efficient running game, similar to the one they had during their 2009 Super Bowl run.
All in all I believe that Brees will shake off the rust as the preseason goes on and the regular season begins, but fans should keep an eye on that third receiver spot and how the Saints run the ball. Solid receiver play and an efficient running attack has the potential to take New Orleans back to the playoffs for a deep run, and possibly more.